Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Vistas

Having visitors opens up new vistas. Dad asked if there was a rooftop restaurant where we could have lunch and I recalled friends telling me that the St. Joseph Hotel has a nice place for lunch. Wow! I wish I had gone long before now. The view over east Luxor is funny for all the satellite dishes. The importance of television in Luxorian life is conspicuous.

And the view to the West is breathtaking -- particularly in the strong wind that was blowing. We could even see our home . . .

. . .  there among the palms and banana groves, with the tombs of the nobles as a background.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Historical Shopping

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.

A must-visit shop in Luxor is Gaddis bookshop. It sells much more than books; but what it sells is not the reason for a visit -- the reason for the visit is to step back, or down, into time. Modern street level requires that you duck your head as you step down into the shop. I love walking across the old wood floors and fingering through turn-of-the-century photographs.

Attaya Gaddis founded the shop, which originated as a photo studio, in 1907. His photographs capture Egypt's past. For example, he was present as burial objects were carried out of the tomb of Tutankhamun. New prints, such as these in the front display window, are taken from his plate glass negatives.

An old display of pencils and leads show how Attaya had the good sense to diversify. He made a good living as a photographer of tourists and their travels, but his descendants make their living from the magnificent book and souvenir shop that he built. It is a piece of Luxor history that I hope is preserved.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

All Eyes

We had a full day of Luxor sightseeing, but not the normal visitation plan. We toured the excavation work of my Egyptian colleagues including this beautiful false door from the time of Queen Hatshepsut that had been reused in the construction of the Roman baths.

We re-visited the interesting bath complex that was built in front of Karnak Temple during the Ptolemaic period.

The cloudy skies of the morning turned into a full-blown hamseen this evening. Our eyes were gritty after. Tonight we made the rounds of plumbing stores in Luxor. I lost count how many we stopped at but, in the end, we may actually have a solution for a dripping air conditioner and that's all that matters. I was very impressed with the orderliness of the last shop. A sight for sore eyes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Idyllic Wednesday

The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
Henry David Thoreau

As I look over the images from today I think, "What an idyllic life!" To be honest, it's all in how you look at, and crop, the image. My idyllic Wednesday began with breakfast on the balcony overlooking a donkey munching on his breakfast. I have cropped out the illegal house constructions that are sprouting up because building inspectors seemingly cannot do their job without a President at the helm.

As we walked to catch a service taxi to the vegetable market, a camel grazed in the next field. I have cropped out the modern houses that make me ponder how long it will be before these fields will be covered with brick and concrete too.

Golden wheat harvested by hand is an idyllic sight -- yet I know that it is back-breaking work.

We had a bit of a laugh on the idyllic path home. I worried about the donkey but he did not complain about his load.

Along the route, an egret posed regally on an abandoned banana plant that had fallen into the canal. A little surprisingly, I did not have to crop out any rubbish that is often present.

Finally, as we headed towards the shadow of the mountain for a quiet dinner at Nur el Gurna, the Sun set behind a thick bank of clouds but light beautifully illuminated the sky's upper reaches.

I may need to do a little 'cropping' to find the idyll, but I'm thankful to have the small bits that I have.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Creation and Adam

The meaning of life is contained in every single expression of life. It is present in the infinity of forms and phenomena that exist in all of creation.
Michael Jackson

Afternoon sun shining through the ripened grain seemed to be a quintessential image of Life and divine creation.

Insight into Creation came in a dark and narrow alley this evening when I stopped to buy chicken. The cashier taught me the Arabic word for bone: "a-dam"; as in Adam.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Smell the Breezes

Today Egypt celebrates the Spring holiday Sham el Nessim, "Smell the Breezes". The winds certainly cooperated. Lots of fresh air blew over the city and the sky was full of homemade kites. This national holiday gives families a chance to enjoy the outdoors.

This morning Mom, Dad and I walked along Road 9 in my old neighbourhood. One of the salesmen from the Pharaonic Flowers shop crossed the street to present me with a beautiful bouquet of three pink roses, a pink lily, and a pink gerber. What a lovely gesture!

Later, the temperature was perfect for an outdoor lunch at Condetti restaurant. Boxes of geraniums bloomed all around us. New life emerged with the season.

Sham el Nessim originated as a pharaonic holiday. Now it is celebrated on the Monday immediately after Coptic Easter. The barista at Caffe Greco presented Mom with a chocolate Easter bunny on her hot chocolate. Some people are so talented!

Later in the afternoon, the spring breezes returned us to Luxor. Cat seemed more than ready to return home. Vacationing can be so tiring! And so we are back among the palms, safe and sound. Well . . . perhaps 'sound' will come after a good night's sleep.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paris on the Nile

This afternoon Dad and I made the 20-minute journey on the Metro from Maadi to downtown Cairo to buy nuts. This is a long weekend so the streets were relatively quiet and one could admire the vision of Khedive Isma'il Pasha. Ruling in the late 1800s, he was determined to modernize Cairo. He brought gas and lighting and designed a new downtown core with open midans (squares) and wide boulevards lined with architectural gems. He created 'Paris on the Nile'.

On Midan Talaat Harb, named after a nationalistic industrialist who created the first true Egyptian bank, stands an culinary institution. Italian entrepreneur Giacomo Groppi established the Groppi patisserie here in 1909. It was the chicest tea room in Cairo, drawing in royalty, literati, cinema stars, and revolutionaries.

Although it can no longer boast to be the best tea room in town, it is a nice place to stop for a rest in a  nostalgic setting.

In the faded interior, elements of its Belle Epoque past can still be seen.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Shopping

Today we ventured into the heart of Cairo. You can find almost anything in the Ataba market. I could not find table lamps that suited, but I had hundreds of models to choose from.

Much of the merchandise is sold on makeshift tables that are set up in the streets -- in most cases, the tables fill the streets. The bears were a cheery sight as we wove our way through the crowds and cars.

Parched shoppers have several options to quench their thirst. Fresh mango juice is a healthy option for young and old.

The drive home through the old neighbourhood of Sayeda Zeinab is always interesting. I believe the sofa is for sale as roadways become furniture showrooms.

Khan el Khalili

In the afternoon light, the brass and copper gleamed alongside a congested Al Azhar Street. Our taxi driver from Maadi begged us to abandon his car at the top end of the street so that he could avoid the crawl. We were happy to oblige because the walk is full of interesting things to see.

We were introduced to a 'new' old glass shop where the jeweler at the front of the shop was able to repair Mom's ornament while she purchased beauties in the back.

The day started with an inspiring service at Maadi's St. John the Baptist church given by Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler.

"God Friday" began in church and ended with a drive amidst the ancient mosques of Cairo.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Showing Their Colours

A Jacaranda tree stands tall, and sways as if to say,
Look! At this magnificence, I’m wearing blue today.
forgive the way I shout aloud, my lack of modesty,
but nowhere in this troubled world is finery like me.

Light rays slide between each leaf, to settle on the tips
to lightly kiss your face with a hundred million tiny lips.
You only have to lift your eyes to greet the filtered sun
a sight I guarantee will warm the heart of everyone.

Though very tall, my leaf is small, its form is one of fern,
large panicles of bluebells swell to trumpet unconcern.
A Bee collecting nectar from an ample deep white throat,
takes flight to join its family, and of its feast to gloat.

Look up to see each fern like leaf, floating up on high,
like footprints of a centipede that stroll across the sky
See how far my branches reach, admire their greenery,
I am beautiful and strong, I am the Jacaranda tree.
Ann Beard

The walk around Ma'adi was full of colour. I remember counting the jacaranda tree among my blessings when I lived here.

Our old street running alongside the Metro line has been cleaned up considerably. There are bits of rubbish in this photo but, believe me, this can be considered pristine in comparison to the days before the revolution. It is as if the country is like the jacaranda tree saying, "I am beautiful and strong, I am Egypt."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mango Views

After a day full of van, plane, and car travel I can hardly keep my eyes open to write this. We arrived in the Big Mango (aka, Cairo) this morning. An afternoon drive to Zamalek in downtown Cairo from the district of Ma'adi to the south took one and a half hours. Wow! But I saw a lot of the city as we drove there and back; albeit, usually from tens of meters above ground level on bridges or flyovers. Here is a view of the western branch of the Nile as it goes around Zamalek island.

My trusty driver decided to take a 'short cut' to get us back to Maadi. He drove miles 'off course' to reach the Ring Road on the western side of the city. Surprisingly, we arrived in Maadi in about 25 minutes. Along the route, I captured the incongruous sight of pyramids within a sea of modern apartment blocks.

Here we are approaching Maadi. Development continues.

I must check this post for grammatical and spelling errors, but it's going to wait until tomorrow. Good night. zzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hot and Hazy

It has been hot and hazy/sandy for the past few days. Thankfully, both dissipated slightly today.

Although good sense should have kept us indoors, we did head over to the city for dinner last night. On route through the fields to catch our service 'taxi' we spotted a camel heading home with its dinner on its back.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tod Doors

"Glorious, stirring sight! The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here today — in next week tomorrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped — always somebody else's horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!"
Kenneth Grahame's 'Toad' explores the delights of car travel in The Wind and The Willows (1908)

Tomorrow's appointment with a dishwasher repairman meant that Tuesday's Travel was scheduled for today. Our destination was a Pharaonic temple in the village of Tod (pronounced Toad).

Just after leaving the temple, I jumped out of the van to take photos of this magnificent door. Adel the driver didn't bat an eyelash at my exuberance yet I got the impression that he was thinking, "Strange beings these hawaga (foreigners)."

With temperatures touching 40 C, Adel stopped to buy us Cokes from a hole-in-the-wall neighbourhood shop. Given the opportunity, I jumped out of the van again to photograph two beautifully carved wood doors.

This time, Adel starting moving the van in the direction of home. Oh well. I may be strange but I love these doors. O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my! ;-)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Supervisor Cat

Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.

As Ruler of the Realm, Divine Cat takes her overseer role very seriously. She has supervised all the recent home repairs. Today she watched closely as Dad affixed new handles to the drawers. Cat acknowledged that the work was done purrfectly.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Donkey Day

To carry his load without resting, not to be bothered by heat or cold and always be content: these three things we can learn from a donkey.
Indian Proverb

A friend challenged me to find a lovely, plump donkey. I've had a weakness for donkeys since I was a kid so all donkeys fit her first criteria, as far as I'm concerned. "Plump" is another story. Only pregnant Egyptian donkeys seem to be full-figured. Most are lean and sinewy, much like the farmers who ride them. Some are emaciated and several have wounds or callouses on their hunches from rope abrasion. Organizations such as Animal Care Egypt and Brooke Hospital for Animals work to improve the care of these lovely beasts of burden.

Here are a few spotted today as we made a road trip to visit the famous woodworkers of Hagaza. This fellow stood proud in the back of a Chevrolet pickup truck, along with his cart and his handler who was sitting on the truck's bed.

There seemed to be a lot of activity going on in the sugarcane and wheat fields. Donkeys remain an important member of the agricultural team.

Some were lucky: they had the day off and stayed at home.

The final photo comes as we near our house at the end of our road trip. Both we and the donkey were homeward bound.